Several months ago  —  tired and hungry  —  I disembarked from the Septa West Trenton Line train at Jenkintown and made the way to my car after a long day at work. As was a customary end to my journey each day was an evening stroll through the inbound platform at the iconic Jenkintown Train Station built in 1872 by the North Pennsylvania Railroad and acquired by the Reading Railroad in 1932. 

I breezed by benches with the Reading Railroad insignia carved into the ninety-year old oak and the art deco architecture structures that are now on the National Historic Registry in the shadow of the late afternoon sun.

As I approached my car from fifteen feet away, I recognized that a white pamphlet was blowing in the breeze under the windshield wiper. A flea market advertisement, a car wash, a party invitation perhaps? 

Last week, a follow-up public meeting addressed the issue that officials are considering shuttering and outsourcing to other area departments the 134-year old Jenkintown Police force. This meeting was preceded by a meeting two weeks ago where residents also voiced concerns.

In February, it was announced that based upon budgetary concerns, and following a consultant’s report from 2020, and amid community concerns  —  Jenkintown’s police force could dissolve allowing the surrounding townships of Abington and Cheltenham to absorb the police responsibilities for this borough.

This is a significant year for Jenkintown. “Jenkins Town” was first established in 1697 by William Jenkins. Jenkintown’s heritage revolves around its two fire companies. The Pioneer Company was founded in 1884 while the Independent Company was founded in 1889. Jenkintown was also made famous when British and Hessian troops marched through it in 1777 and were engaged by American forces around Abington during the Battle of Whitemarsh during the American Revolution.

The residents of Jenkintown have a host of reasons to oppose this move.

The good work of the Jenkintown Police Force is evident. Crime rates for being a victim of a violent crime is a mere one out of 523 compared to a rate of 1 out of 357 in Pennsylvania as a whole. Rates of property crime in Jenkintown were 1 in 69.

We live in a time that demands safety first. While neighboring Abington and Cheltenham are award-winner, top-notch, police departments —  over-saturating their resources may create safety gaps for the residents of Jenkintown. 

One of Pennsylvania’s oldest borough’s should not be without its own police force, dedicated to that town. One of Jenkintown’s most important municipalities should not have to endure its citizens left to worry about a void in municipality protection.

It’s a tough time to invite crime into your neighborhoods. And it’s hard to imagine a better invitation than the elimination of an entire police department. Especially with reported victims of violent crime up in Pennsylvania from 2,051 victims in 2023 from 1,832 in the year 2022.

The loss of Jenkintown’s police force shouldn’t be seen as a call to defund the police. This doesn’t equate to the Philadelphia Police, who are operating with an annual budget of $856 million (the largest of any department in the city.) According to the proposal, Jenkintown defunding the entire Police Department would make for a total cost savings of more than $400,000.

Some will say that the cost savings is defensible by having neighboring departments absorb the responsibility for keeping the citizens of Jenkintown borough safe, or that this is another win for the national “Defund the Police” movement which came to Philadelphia in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we were to contract with another agency, the police service is not going to change. It’s going to be just as good or better,” said Jenkintown Police Chief Thomas Scott.

For historic Jenkintown however, the concern of local residents goes much deeper.

Oh and that pamphlet on my car at Jenkintown Station? It had information on it about the importance of not “Defunding the Philadelphia Police.”

Michael Thomas Leibrandt lives and works in Abington, Pennsylvania.

3 thoughts on “Michael Thomas Leibrandt: Why dissolving Jenkintown’s Police just isn’t that just”

  1. While the decision to outsource the Jenkintown PD is not a “defund the police” measure, once the responsibilities have been turned over to Abington and Cheltenham PDs it could be. The politics in Cheltenham is getting more and more like what you’d expect in University City in Philadelphia, and Abington is more and more woke each day as well. The true gem of Jenkintown is the fact that its borough services, and its independent school district, are top-notch in serving its citizens.

  2. If police operations are at or around the 50% level they have a structural deficit. Taxing their way out of it may not be possible or practical. Police budgets tend to increase geometrically unlike the somewhat linear increase in tax revenue. If they added police stuff by means of the “Cops Grants” programs they could be up against it. A solution may be downsizing but that is a question for the department and their contract.

  3. I was born and raised in Jenkintown, 3rd generation JHS Class of 1983. Jenkintown Borough is celebrating it’s 150th Anniversary this year. It’s sad our town is disappearing right before our eyes. I don’t feel like celebrating. I keep asking myself what would our ancestors think? The Mayor, Borough Manager and Borough Council Members & previous adminstrations have failed us all. They have grossly mismanaged our tax dollars. I now reside in Rockledge but my family still helps manage a 100+ year old business. Our elected officials first responsibility was to protect and serve the residents of Jenkintown. They took an oath & their first responsibility is Public Safety. Taxpayers were not notified of how in debt our borough is & they had to read about it in the newspaper. That is so WRONG! If anyone thinks that disbanning our police department is going to save our borough money, they are dillusional. Since our police officers are part time they could loose their pensions. The residents of Jenkintown are going to endure a minimum of THREE & a half years of construction, road closures & traffic nightmares. Disbanning the police dept will be the beginning of the slow death of Jenkintown. Property values will depreciate. The schools will be gone next and the children of Jenkintown will then be bused to adjoining school districts. Does anyone want their children going to Abington or Jenkintown? Will any of this save tax dollars. I don’t believe it will as we will still be paying for these services. I wonder how Abington & Cheltenham residents feel about that. What will be the response times be for police, fire & EMS in an emergency. Especially, when the construction begind in April on the Noble Plaza Bridge, closing lanes on York Road down to one lane in each direction for over three years. There is do much construction in the borough now, changing traffic patterns to add 200+ apts in the borough. I am asking everyone to take this into consideration & STOP this from happening NOW. Once we open pandora’s box there is no turning back. Jenkintown will be left very vunerable while making us all easy prey for criminal activity. Jenkintown Matters ~ our police officers matter. PLEASE everyone get involved & STOP this NOW before it’s too late.
    Sincerely,
    Patricia Regan Moyer

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